Sometimes I return to an author whose work I’ve tried before, but didn’t finish. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s for a particular reason, and I’m very conscious that I will return to such an author.
In the case of Iain Sinclair, it’s his spectacular prose, his eye for psychogeography, and his bizarre portraits of people. I tried reading Downriver, last year on holiday, and loved it, but couldn’t finish it. I got about half-way through. It was too rich for me, during a period where I had switched off my brain.
But Iain Sinclair remains one of the best writers I’ve come across, in any genre; his mastery of language is incredible. You can see the connections with writers such as Miéville and M. John Harrison, all of whom possess shared characteristics in the way they deal with the urban environment, stressing the madness and alienation of our British cities.
I knew I would return to Sinclair, but it was only when I saw an awful Amazon review that I decided to pick up White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings, perhaps in defiance of some pillock who clearly did not get what Sinclair was about.
I then concluded something about my own fiction reading habits, which I’ve forgotten of late: I don’t often give a damn for what’s going on plot-wise. I think I’ll proudly admit that more often than not, I do not care for a romping, thumping beat to a novel (though occasionally I do). I do care about the way something is put together, very much, and that is what Sinclair does very well.
So I’ll give him a second go; and I don’t even mind if I can’t finish this novel, because I’m already enjoying flicking through and reading the sublime sentences, and I know even a scattering of these phrases will serve me well.